(HOST) For most of us, Patriot’s Day weekend means the Boston Marathon, but commentator Ken Davis reminds us of it’s origins – and he says it’s a good time to remember one of our unsung Revolutionary heroes.
(DAVIS) "Listen my children, and you shall hear/of the midnight ride of . . . Joseph Warren?"
Okay. It doesn’t scan like Longfellow’s original. But that’s the problem. In making sure we "hear" about "Revere," Longfellow’s famous poem ignored the man whose name should be as familiar as those of Adams or Hancock. A man who deserves to be honored this Patriots’ Day, the celebration of America’s Revolutionary beginnings better known in Beantown as "Marathon Day."
A successful physician and progressive thinker, Joseph Warren was born a farmer’s son in 1741 in Roxbury, outside Boston. During the smallpox plague that swept colonial America, he advocated inoculations and vaccinated John Adams.
But medicine was not his only passion. When the colonies began to clash with Mother England, Warren became a propagandist, spymaster and orator who modeled himself on Cicero, occasionally donning a toga to deliver incendiary speeches. Most likely, it was Warren who led the men disguised as Indians to the Boston Tea Party. He also linked Boston’s upper crust patriots – who got most of the glory – to the workingmen and artisans – like Paul Revere – who did most of the dirty work.
But Warren was left out of our poems. And our schoolbooks. And that’s too bad, because his story is compelling.
It was Warren who issued Revere’s "riding orders" on that night in 1775. He set the stage for the fateful April 19th morning at Lexington and Concord – the reason behind Patriots’ Day and the running of the Boston Marathon. Later, after the Minute Men became the first to die in the American Revolution, Warren took to the front lines at "Bunker Hill" and fell.
For the British, Warren’s death was a coup, celebrated by tossing the rebel doctor’s body into a mass grave. For the patriot cause, the loss of Warren cut deep. Abigail Adams poignantly wrote to husband John: "We mourn for the citizen, the senator, the physician, and the warrior. When he fell, liberty wept."
Paul Revere later returned to the battleground to locate the rebel leader’s body. He was able to identify his compatriot’s remains because Revere had fitted the false teeth that Warren wore, one of the first known cases of forensic dentistry.
Yet, Joseph Warren’s story remained buried, overshadowed by the more illustrious Founders with better biographers – and admiring poets. He became the most important Founding Father most of us have never heard of.
This Patriots’ Day, when the runners "hit the wall" at Boston’s "Heartbreak Hill," let’s remember, it’s not about the Marathon. As Joseph Warren attests, it’s about courage, selflessness and sacrifice; virtues that are all too often in short supply.